Monday, December 22, 2014

Video: Infiltration of a Demonstration Organized by the Political Opposition in Honduras

This is a video created by Honduran journalist Cesar Silva that was circulated a few months ago. I'm reposting it because it characterizes not just the gathering or march where the video footage was taken, but the infiltration and counterinsurgency tactics used in demonstrations by state security forces and/or unknown individuals in Honduras. Its also a tactic used in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere.

In the Honduran context where being identified with a particular movement can lead to political assassinations, death threats, death squad killings, and criminalization, infiltration as depicted in this video, is quite frightening. It contributes to collective paranoia, fear, and terror whenever anyone decides to join a protest and/or publicly declare their support for the political opposition.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The IMF and Privatization in Honduras: Impacts on the National Energy Company

Honduran public sector unions are in a crisis as a result of mass suspensions of over 5,000 public employees in the last few months. The largest suspensions to date – approximately 2,000 employees – occurred in the National Electrical Energy Company (ENEE) but job cuts were also made in the Honduran Telecommunications Company (HONDUTEL), the National Agrarian Institute (INA), and others. Thousands more are expected in state institutions already impacted, as well as others that have not yet been affected, such as the National Autonomous Water Supply and Sewerage Service (SANAA). A large majority of the suspensions were conducted in violation of the Honduran Labour Code, the Honduran constitution, General Law of Public Administration, and Conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Photo caption: ENEE lay-offs occurred weeks before Christmas. This sign in STENEE's office in Tegucigalpa reads "No Christmas in solidarity with the suspended comrades". December 2014.

The Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Nacional de Energia Electrica or the Workers’ Union of the National Electrical Energy Company (STENEE by its Spanish acronym), are calling the job cuts a “labour massacre”. STENEE is part of the recently formed National Platform of Public Unions that have held protests attended by thousands of Hondurans every Saturday for the last three weeks to demand the reintegration of employees that have recently lost their jobs.

Photo caption: Protest in San Pedro Sula against the suspensions in public institutions. September 13, 2014

The IMF, Neoliberalism and Poverty in Honduras

The on-going mass lay-offs in public institutions come as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approves a three-year $188.6 million loan with the Honduran government. As part of the loan agreement, the IMF is insisting that the Honduran government reduce the country’s public deficit – the largest in Central America- from 7.5% of GDP to 2% of GDP by 2017. In order to reduce the deficit, Honduran people will face higher taxes (already increased one year ago), reduced subsidies particularly in the energy and transportation sector, and major changes and budget reductions in public institutions particularly in health and education.

In a country where 59% of the population lives below the poverty line and 36.2% in extreme poverty with very low employment rates – some of the major push factors of migration to the United States - mass public funding and jobs cuts will have dramatic impacts on the poorest sectors of Honduran society.

The threat to privatize ENEE has existed for years under neoliberal Central American integration plans –like MesoAmerican Project or Plan Puebla Panana (PPP) and the Central America Electrical Integration System (SIEPAC)- promoted by the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration. The supposed 'new’ plan for the Central American region and ‘solution’ to the migration crisis- the Plan of the Alliance for the Prosperity of the Northern Triangle- is simply an extension of the integration plans proposed for the region. The Alliance for Prosperity plan calls for more private investment, the expansion of SIECAP, and major changes in the Honduran energy industry amongst other initiatives. Confronting the recent assault and the historical threat to the energy industry, the Honduran people and STENEE have strongly defended their national energy company and up until the past few months, small consumers in Honduras have received energy at much lower costs than neighbouring countries that have undergone privatization in their energy sectors.

IFIs, and the US Government In Bed With the Honduran Economic Elite

Some of the greatest proponents of privatizing ENEE are the economic and political elite of Honduras, a handful of families that have dominated the economy and Congress for decades. These same families orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that ushered in enhanced neoliberal policies and shortly later, was accompanied by large, on-going increases in violence and poverty in the country.

The economic elite supported by international financial institutions, are very much behind the historical and current privatization efforts in ENEE. As early as 1999, meter reading services were contracted out to a Honduran financial services corporation owned by Arturo Corrales, currently the Honduran Ministry of Security and one of the key actors in the 2009 military coup. Under the Callejas Presidency in the early 1990s, private companies owned by the economic elite – the Nasser family being one - were given thermal energy contracts that requires ENEE to purchase over 50% of their energy supply from the private thermal generating companies despite its high costs. In 2011, the Honduran government signed a contract with a US-Honduran company – one representative being the nephew of former President Callejas - called PHP Energy, marking the beginning of what STENEE believes to be a slow hand-over of public assets to private companies. STENEE has since challenged the PHP contract in Honduran courts and is blocking the entrance of PHP Energy personnel into the installations where the project is proposed to be build.

Photo caption: At the entrance of ENEE's El Nispero installations in Santa Barbara, STENEE hung a banner protesting the contract with PHP

The changes in ENEE are being facilitated by the National Electrical Industry Law that was approved in January 2014 and expected to be fully implemented in June 2015. The law splits ENEE into three sectors – energy distribution, public lighting, and transmission – and hands the management of these sectors over to three Honduran banks. Ficohsa, Banco Altantida, and Banco Continental are now managing ENEE’s finances through trust funds, and once the National Electrical Industry Law is fully implemented, will be responsible for seeking and managing investment in the three sectors. In other words, the latest reforms supported by the IFIs hollow out the Honduran state energy company and ENEE will be forced to compete with private companies offering similar services.

Ensuring the so-called ‘stability’ of the Honduran economy, the IMF loan will encourage foreign investment in Honduras for transnational corporations seeking new and ‘emerging’ markets in the so-called ‘Global South’. The United States currently has the greatest weight in the IMF. The Congressional Research Service reports, the US has a “voting share of 16.75%” the highest of all IMF members, followed by Japan at 6.23%. The US is the “only country able to unilaterally veto major IMF decisions” and one of the handful of countries that have a lot to gain from privatization of public institutions and market liberalization in Honduras.

Photo caption: Road blockade preventing the entrance of machinery attempting to build the Agua Zarca dam, Rio Blanco.

One of the most detrimental impacts of the privatization of ENEE and the financial ‘stability’ guaranteed by the IMF loan, will be the further push to construct and/or expand hydroelectric dams and energy substations around the country. Beginning in 2007 and picking up pace since the June 2009 military coup, various concessions of Honduran rivers were approved by the National Congress. The long and on-going struggle of the Lenca indigenous community of Rio Blanco is an example of how private, large-scale, internationally financed dam projects have serious social and environmental impacts. The attempt to construct the Agua Zarca dam in Rio Blanco violates the rights of indigenous peoples to be consulted about projects in their territories as mandated by ILO 169. Community resistance to the construction of the dam was met with repression, threats, and assassinations of community members and their supporters. Similar struggles of Lenca communities are occurring in Santa Elena, La Paz in south-western Honduras where communities are attempting to stop the construction of another dam project owned by Gladys Aurora Lopez, the Vice President of the Honduran National Congress. With a more “stable” environment for foreign investment and the relevant legislation in place, it is more likely that concessions to build dam projects will receive the financing needed to begin construction.

STENEE’s Attempt to Defend the Integrity of ENEE

Mismanagement, corrupt political dealings, and strong interests in privatization are at the center of the problem that STENEE is now confronting. Since the President of ENEE is appointed by the political party in power, management of ENEE is at the whim of strong political interests. Knowing well what they are up against, since the job cuts began underway STENEE has fueled the debate about the role of the economic elite and the IMF and their interests in privatization. STENEE President Miguel Aguilar announced in a recent press conference that 37 high paid employees in ENEE are family members of high-level officials and congressional representatives in the Honduran government including the daughter of the President of the National Congress and the niece of the Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Since the June 2009 military coup, the IFIs and the political and economic elite in Honduras have had it out for public employees in Honduras. Since a major point of interest of the IMF in the agreement negotiations with the Honduran government is eliminating state energy subsidies and slashing public costs, STENEE is facing an assault on the integrity of a public institution that is set to undergo major changes and fragmentation in the coming months.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Quick note: At Least 22 U.S.-Vetted TIGRE Agents Suspended After Dividing up Drug Money During Raid

At least 22 agents of the TIGRES, a SWAT-style elite police unit were allegedly suspended after it was discovered that a team of TIGRES divided $1.3 million dollars amongst themselves. The money was found during a raid on property owned by the Valle Valle family in Copan. The United States is requesting the extradition of the Valle family who are facing drug trafficking charges in US courts.

Former US Ambassador Lisa Kubiske in Lepaterique, Francisco Morazan, Honduras where TIGRES unit completed training provided by Columbian and US forces. Source and photo credit: La Tribuna

The TIGRES are vetted and trained by the United States. This is just another example of how 'vetting' units - a strategy promoted by the US - is a deeply flawed concept that will never work. Another example of the failure of 'vetting' is the Honduran vetted unit that accompanied the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) during a drug interdiction operation in La Moskitia where four innocent indigenous Miskitu people were killed and three badly injured.

The Honduran press reports that two TIGRES captains permitted the team to divide the money up and describe the way they avoided disclosing the amount of money that was found during the raid. La Prensa is also reporting how some spent the money including buying sports cars, houses, and prostitution.

Although this is another case describing corruption in Honduran police units, its suspicious (in my opinion) that the press is reporting it in such detail. The Honduran government and those in favour of further militarizing Honduran society will likely try anything possible to make police units look terrible in the next few months. Having said that, I'm also not promoting the Honduran police and do agree that the level of corruption and impunity in which they operate is a huge problem.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Future of Honduran Public Insecurity: Violations of the Military Police of Public Order

The militarization of Honduran streets shows no signs of stopping. On November 11th, the Honduran press announced that one thousand additional Military Police – a new, elite, hybrid military-police force – would be trained and sent to the streets. Four days later, the National Defense and Security Council headed by Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez asked the National Congress to take the necessary measures to approve the Military Police as a permanent security force under the Honduran Constitution.

The recent push to consolidate the Military Police contributed to a minor police scandal that erupted last week when the National Director of the Police, Ramon Sabillon refused to step down after being illegally fired from his position. The scandal was partially caused by fears amongst the National Police and some sectors of Honduran society that the permanent and growing status of the Military Police will render the National Police force obsolete.

With more soldiers in the streets, Honduras is becoming more and more militarized by the day. To date, there have been limited results in generating security and safer streets for it’s citizens.

Creation of Military Police Linked to Canada and US Regional Security Strategies

The Honduran Congress approved a temporary decree that created the Military Police for Public Order (PMOP) on August 22, 2013. Beginning early October of the same year, the hybrid military-police force was sent to the streets under the command of the Honduran Armed Forces. Known as the special security unit of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, its biggest promoter, the Military Police are military soldiers with military training funded by a Security Tax or the Tasa de Seguridad. Approved in June 2011, the Honduran Security Tax is believed to have been created to fund the security initiatives proposed under the Central American Security Strategy (CASS) of the Central American Integration System (SICA). Interestingly, the Tasa de Seguridad was approved by the Honduran Congress in the same month that SICA countries adopted the Central American Security Strategy. The Security Tax is used to fund Honduran security institutions and strategy of the Hernandez government, supported by the U.S. and Canada.

SICA-CASS is an umbrella, multilateral security initiative formed under the leadership of former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Two major North American security initiatives in Central America are aligned with CASS: the US Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) and the Canadian Initiative for Security in Central America (CISCA). Both Canada and the US are joined by other countries committed to SICA-CASS including Japan, Columbia, and Germany, as well as International Financial Institutions like the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Juan Orlando Hernandez argues that the Military Police will ensure citizen security and safer streets particularly as the National Police are undergoing a purging or depuración process. According to the President, Hondurans no longer trust the police, and the Military Police can stop the violence and insecurity rampant in what some now call Honduras, the “murder capital of the world”.

(Publicly Known) Abuses Committed by the Military Police Since Their Creation

The Military Police are anything but a solution to the corrupt National Police force. Since being sent to the streets in October of last year, Military Police have been involved in various human rights violations, some against members of the political opposition. The following is a short list of these publicly known abuses:

* Raided the house of union leader and LIBRE member Marco Antonio Rodriguez, October 10, 2013.
In a Special Operation and within one week of being on the street, the Military Police (MP) raided the house of the Vice President of the National Child Welfare Union (SITRAPANI), Marco Antonio Rodriguez. MP pointing weapons at Rodriguez and his family members and forcing them to lie face down on the street. When asked to see the search warrant, the MP responded, “What search warrant, here we can do what we want.”

* Raided the house of FNRP activist, Edwin Espinal, October 23, 2013.
In another Special Operation, the MP broke down the doors to Espinal’s house accusing him of possessing illegal weapons and drugs. The search warrant presented to Espinal read “Robelo [as Espinal is known in his community] belongs to the LIBRE party and is one of the leaders of that area.” Along with GPS coordinates of the location of his house, the warrant also noted that: “outside, [the house] has a LIBRE flag."

* Evicted former President Zelaya, LIBRE Congressional representatives, and supporters from Congress, May 13, 2014.
Protesting the silencing of political debate in Congress, the political opposition in Congress led by President Manual Zelaya, ousted in a military coup in June 2009, were violently evicted by the MP. The MP shot several cans of tear gas and beat protestors and some LIBRE Congressional representatives.

* Beat up, mistreated, and detained children’s rights defender, Jose Guadalupe Ruelas, Director of Casa Alianza, May 8, 2014.

Source: HonduPresa

Driving home from a human rights forum, Ruelas was beaten and detained by MP after being ordered to stop at an MP check-point in Tegucigalpa. After stopping, a police motorcycle colliding with Ruelas’ vehicle. Ruelas was violently removed from his vehicle, struck on his head, back, and legs, and detained.

* Two Military Police were arrested in western Honduras for permitting the escape of two individuals taking contraband into Guatemala, July 2014.
Two Military Police were arrested by Honduran police on charges of violation of official duties and evasion after allowing two individuals driving a truck carrying contraband to escape and cross the border into Guatemala.

*Shot at a public bus in Tegucigalpa after it failed to stop at a Military Police check-point, October 1, 2014
Source: El Heraldo

After failing to stop at a checkpoint managed by the Military Police in Tegucigalpa, the MP fired at the back window of a public bus carrying fourteen passengers. Four people were injured – two with bullet wounds, and two from broken glass.

* Gang raped a female sweatshop worker in San Pedro Sula, November 2014
A woman reported that she was picked up by the Military Police while waiting for a bus after leaving work in the northern Honduran city, San Pedro Sula. She was forced to get into the back of the truck and taken to an isolated area where she was raped by eight MP.


Within one year of being present in the streets, the variety and quantity of abuses committed by the Military Police are concerning, particularly as their presence is likely to increase. The promotion of the Military Police by the Honduran President and the National Defense and Security Council, is undoubtedly causing major tension between the National Police and the MP on the streets of Honduras. One example is a recent public shoot out that occurred between the military and the police, the result of a dispute over the police not permitting the military vehicle to pass. This tension has the potential to create serious security concerns for Honduran citizens on top of the already grave insecurity crisis in the country.

Monday, November 17, 2014

In Memory of Adolfo Castañeda, Campesino Leader in the Aguan Valley, Honduras

Adolfo Castañeda, May 2012.

I have an unforgettable moment of Adolfo Castañeda, an amazing campesino leader from the Bajo Aguan region of Honduras that died recently of natural causes (based on what is reported at the moment). Adolfo was a founding leader of the campesino movement in the 70s, a major opponent of the illegal land transfers under the Modernization Law in the 1990s, and lost his son who was murdered in Colon in 2014. He was a founding member of the United Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MUCA).

One day, I took a group to talk to him roughly an hour before dusk in northern Honduras. He stood under the African palm trees in La Aurora finca that he and the United Campesino Movement of Aguan (MUCA) were farming, occupying, and recuperating from large land owners in the Aguan Valley. He spoke with passion about his years of being part of a campesino movement fighting for land rights and a better life for his children, something that he insisted, he would never stop doing until the day he died.

Adolfo told us the way in which the US continued to support the Honduran government and military. He described all the repression he had faced over the years as a campesino leader fighting for land in Honduras including how he learned how to stand against the trunks of the African palm trees and slowly circulating under them to avoid the bright light that helicopters would shine into the fincas in search of campesinos occupying the land.

He told us that he wasn't angry at us (American and Canadian citizens) for what our governments do on their imperialist missions to promote their economic interests but insisted that we go home and tell everyone what was happening in Honduras and how land was being stolen from poor campesinos for agrobusiness. He was so articulate and so proud to share his analysis - understanding what was happening inside his finca against his compañer@s and land while connecting it with US foreign policy in Honduras.

After hearing such powerful words, myself and other members of the group, got back into the car. It was almost dark but we could still make out the African palm trees inside the finca. As we started the vehicle and drove away, Adolfo walked back into the palm trees. He didn't look back at us, just simply walked into the haunting shadows of the large trees planted on the land that he had spent his life fighting for and defending.

RIP Adolfo Castañeda. Memories of you will live on in the struggles of the campesinos in the Aguan Valley.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Canada-based Aura Minerals Ready to Dig up the Dead in Honduras

In April 2014, the community of Azacualpa blocked the entrance of the San Andres mine in La Unión, Copan, in western Honduras. The open-pit gold mine is owned by Minerales de Occidente, a subsidiary of Toronto-based mining company, Aura Minerals who acquired the mine in August 2009.

A few weeks after initiating the blockade, the community was violently evicted by Honduran military and police who beat protesters including minors, shot tear gas, and arrested those that stuck around to fight the evict or that lived close to where it took place. Radio Progreso reports that various people were arrested and 21 community members face charges requiring them to sign before a Honduran judge every month.

According to a community member that asked that her name not be revealed because of the delicate security situation in the area: "A large group from the community and former employees of the mine blocked the entrance of the mine for .. some days, 15 days. The company refused to negotiate, they told us that they had nothing to say to us. The military arrived, beat, and captured some people .. I think 15 people, but I'm not sure, many were injured"

A 20-minute video shot on a community member's cell phone (that is shaky and needs some editing) caught and recorded the eviction:

Upon initiating the blockade, the residents of Azacualpa were protesting the expansion of the mining operation, including a potential threat that operations would expand into the community's cemetery. According to Radio Progreso's report, the Azacualpa residents agreed to be relocated to a new area before the operations expanded, but since the agreement was reached the company's commitment failed to materialized. However, despite the relocation agreement, the community leadership says that they did not want the company to operate in the cemetery, where approximately 400 families lay their loved ones to rest.

As Orlando Rodriguez, the Vice President of the patronato (the community leadership) told Radio Progreso:

"They [the mining company] want to exploit the land of the cemetery but the community is not in agreement, we have our public deed that gives us the power to prevent it. They claim that they have permission to exploit 50 metres from the cemetery, we as the elected community leadership decided to consult the people house-by-house and the majority do not agree that the remains in the cemetery are removed, but they have used force because they have militarized the area and continue to exploit."

Following the eviction, Honduran military remained in the community for approximately three weeks and Aura Minerals continues its operations that a community member described as "very close to the boundaries of the cemetery."

"They put military soldiers in the cemetery, there are only guards now but yes, after that, a lot of time passed, I think three weeks, that the military was patrolling. There were a lot of military cars patrolling the area. They were going to put up a big gate so that people could not enter [the cemetery]."

Ending a seven-year mining moratorium, the law was approved in January 2013. Mining operations - many of which are owned by transnational corporations - are expanding and/or beginning in various parts of Honduras. Canadian companies like Aura Minerals have directly benefited from the new legal framework that was written with support and assistance from the Canadian government and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Since its approval last year, two legal challenges have been presented against the law and various communities and organizations argue that the process in which the law was written and the law itself, completely ignore the demands of communities that have and will be affected by mining operations in their territory.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Boats Seized in 'Drug War,' Unusable for Local Fishermen

Without getting too much into property and asset seizures of drug traffickers in Honduras, I found it interesting when I saw a handful of large, abandoned, high-speed boats (without motors) abandoned on the shore of an island in the Gulf of Fonseca, Honduras last week.

Seized from drug traffickers, the Honduran Administrating Office of Seized Good (Oficina Administradora de Bienes Incautados or OABI by its Spanish acronym) donated the boats to "three fishing organizations" in the Gulf of Fonseca for fishing or ecotourism. Along the shore where we visited, there were approximately 10 of these abandoned boats with Gobierno de la Republica: Working for a better life signs and a painted OABI with a number on them.

The local fisherman I was with told me about how they had been abandoned at the shore of the Gulf because no local fisherman would ever be able to afford to buy the size of motor that the boat requires. We were traveling in a small boat with a 40 horsepower motor which, based on the conversations between the friends I was with before departing, is somewhat large in comparison with the rest of the boat owners where we departed in Marcovia, Choluteca. The fisherman I was with joked that the boats were donated to fisherman but that they were totally unusable and thus abandoned.

Small boats used by local fishermen (on the left) versus big boats used by narcos to transport drugs (on the right)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Plans to Develop the Gulf of Fonseca Move Forward While Communities Say No to ZEDEs and "That Kind" of Development

By: Karen Spring

On August 14, 2014, the Presidents of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador participated in the "Second Technical Preparatory Meeting - Gulf of Fonseca" in Managua, Nicaragua.

The Presidents were discussing the elaboration, implementation, and follow-up of "a master investment plan that assures the economic development of the Golf of Fonseca," a plan that would contain "proposals from each country in order to convert the Gulf of Fonseca into a site of sustainable economic development."

In the meeting, Juan Orlando Hernández (President of Honduras), Daniel Ortega (President of Nicaragua), and Salvador Sánchez Cerén (President of El Salvador) defined their nations' interests in projects that would develop the Gulf and came to an agreement on investments in the following sectors: Infrastructure, tourism, agroindustry, and renewable energy.

The meeting declaration outlines 12 agreements that were reached and mentions interest in the development of various projects that would facilitate transportation between the three nations and development in the Gulf. These projects include: a ferry from the La Union Port in El Salvador to Port Corinto in Nicaragua, and a ferry or shuttle from La Union, El Salvador to Potosi, Nicaragua expanding to Amapala and San Lorenzo.

Locals transporting people from Coyolito to Amapala, Oct. 23, 2014

The report also mentions the "implementation of a Employment and Economic Development Zone (ZEDE) [known as a Model City] that includes a logistics park." The idea is to convert the Gulf into a "Free Trade and Sustainable Development Zone."

The Amapala dock on the Isla del Tigre, Honduras, October 23, 2014

The declaration itself as well as articles in Honduran national newspapers report that President Juan Orlando Hernandez will request financial assistance for this infrastructure - including a large dock between Coyolito and Amapala - from South Korea, the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE), and the InterAmerican Development Bank (BID). Shortly after these announcements, on September 5, 2014, La Prensa wrote that the BID would finance $7.9 million for projects in the Gulf - $6.6 million for the "Regional Economic Development of the Gulf of Fonseca" and $1.3 million for "Value Chain and Rural Business" program(s). This specific contribution is not the only international loans contributing to 'development' in the Gulf of Fonseca.

Approximately one month later, President Hernandez along with other Central American Presidents, presented the "Prosperity Partnership Plan for the Development of the Gulf of Fonseca" to the United States government and the United Nations during a trip to Washington. This Plan is being proposed as one solution to the "constant and growing migration" to the United States, a topic that has picked up pace since the child migration issue became a hot topic in mainstream North American media.


The march against the ZEDEs in Amapala, October 23, 2014

Last week on October 23, communities and individuals from all over Southern Honduras (El Transito, Nacaome, Amapala, Zacate Grande, Tegucigalpa, etc) crossed the beautiful Gulf of Fonseca - from Coyolito to Amapala - to participate in a march against the ZEDE project proposed for the area. While some participants handed out copies of the ZEDE law, over 500 people marched from the Amapala dock to the municipality office.

Over 500 people waiting for the boats to cross the Golf of Fonseca to participate in the march. Oct. 23, 2014.

One participate from Amapala told me (as was reported in the Honduran press) that three mayors from southern Honduras, including the mayor of Amapala had recently (in July or August 2014) traveled to South Korean to learn about a potential Korean investment in a megaport in Amapala. Since his return, mayor Santos Cruz Guevara, has organized three cabildo abiertos or information sessions in Amapala to inform the population of his trip including that the South Koreans would be conducting a feasibility study in the region in the coming months.

Shortly afterword, one woman in Amapala reports seeing foreigners - thought to be from Korea - measuring land on her property. When asked what they were doing, the group responded that they were measuring land for a project they wanted to build on the island.

Although there are proposals to construct ZEDEs in other parts of Honduras (like in Trujillo for example), the communities participating in the march last week worry that the project has advanced rapidly without informing or consulting the local population as to its specifics or impacts. Many complain of the lack of transparency in which the Honduran government has promoted the project and ZEDEs in general, as well as the potential exacerbation of existing land conflicts if the Honduran government decides to move forward.

The individuals, organizations, and communities in attendance at the march reaffirmed their desire for community development in southern Honduras but emphasized that they were against "that kind" of development or large-scale, top-down, non-participatory, neoliberal development like the ZEDEs/Model Cities.

Sign reads: "Model Cities = surrendering sovereignty, looting, and militarization", Oct. 23, 2014

Karen has lived and worked in Honduras and Central America since 2008 and currently is the Honduras Coordinator for the Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Transportation Strike in Tegucigalpa: Another Sign of Failure of the Honduras-US-SICA Security Strategy

Today, the Urban Transportation Union and the Taxi Driver Association of Honduras called a general transportation strike in Tegucigalpa. The transportistas are protesting the high levels of violence and insecurity, and are demanding justice for assassinations of transportation operators that have occurred in the last few weeks.

Oscar Castillo, the President of the Taxi Driver Association of Honduras told El Heraldo, a national Honduran newspaper that taxi drivers had the moral obligation to support the bus drivers, who first initiated the strike, because violence affects the entire transportation sector. Speaking about recent deaths of transportistas, Castillo told El Heraldo, “Only us taxi drivers, they have killed 44 comrades throughout 2014, the situation that the sector is living through is unsustainable and now no one wants to work with us out of fear.”

The final straw that initiating the strike was the murder of 28-year old Javier Antonio Ortega, a driver of a small bus or rapidito as they are called in Honduras. Ortega worked on the route between the National Autonomous University (UNAH) and the neighbourhood El Carrizal and was killed on the Boulevard Fuerzas Armadas, known as the “corridor of death” because of the number of individuals working in the public transportation sector that have been killed on the road.

Traveling in public buses and collective taxis (known as colectivos) is like entering a life-death lottery. One never really knows if they will reach their final destination without being robbed, killed, deeply traumatized from seeing something horrendous or all of the above. Heck, no one is safe from potential attacks of the Military Police themselves, who shot at a passenger bus in Tegucigalpa a few weeks ago, injuring four people.

Sign reads: "Mr. President and the results of the Security Tax ... when?"

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez created the Military Police and the TIGRES, yet - as the transportation sector is stating - have not improved the security situation in the country. Under the ex-President, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, the Honduran military were sent to the streets, and 3 years later, the homicide rate still remains one of the highest in the world.

Since the Merida Initiative was launched in 2008, and later the United States’ Central American Regional Security Strategy (CARSI) was folded into the Central American Integration System (SICA)- Central American Security Strategy (CASS), the homicide rate has skyrocketed. One of the intentions of SICA-CASS is to create safer streets and citizen security in Honduras - a goal that has not been achieved through militarizing the Honduran police, creating elite hybrid police-military units, and 'cleaning-up' the Honduran police.

Today’s strike of the transportation sector is another reminder of the failure of the Honduran security strategy that receives millions of dollars of support and training from the US and Canada governments.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

No Political Will to Clean up Honduran Police Force: Paving the Way for Further Militarization of Honduran Society

Military Police in Flor del Campo, October 2013

The role of the Honduran police is shifting (once again) and it has a lot to do with the expanding presence and role of the Juan Orlando Hernandez’s hybrid military and police units, the Military Police for Public Order and the Intelligence Policing Troops or TIGRES on Honduran streets.

Honduras is on a path of increasing militarization and we should expect more TIGRES, more Military Police, and more militarization proposed as the solution to the failed police reform and insecurity.

Both elite units are supported and trained by the United States government, funded by the “Security Tax”, and in the case of the TIGRES, funded by the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB).

Some recent developments that have caught my eye:

One. The recent decision by the Honduran government to send the TIGRES into take over a major police post “La Granja” in Comayaguela. La Granja is the command post for various neighborhoods and police posts in Comayaguela.

The reason it was taken over: Police corruption. The Honduran media is citing two specific cases to justify the take-over, both cases involving active police officers kidnapping and stealing from or bribing civilians. Definitely not new corruption issues.

Two. The closure of the police post in Flor del Campo, one of the highest populated neighborhoods in Comayaguela. The Military Police have maintained a permanent post in the center of the neighborhood since October 2013. This has not necessarily eliminated the control of the Mara 18 either. Taxi and bus drivers are still paying (and being killed over) the “impuesto de guerra” (war tax), business owners are still being murdered, and on August 14, a curfew was imposed allegedly by the Mara 18 and residents of Flor del Campo were told not to leave their houses after 7 pm or they would be killed.

The possible reason for closing the police post?: Flor del Campo doesn’t need a civilian police force when the Military Police have maintained a permanent presence in the center of the community since October 2013.

Three. One of the biggest proponents of police reform in Honduras, the head of the National Autonomous University, Julieta Castellanos is back in the media discussing La Granja post and police corruption. Castellanos is saying that the police reform “has been a failure.” She tells the University Press, “There is a change in the security model of this country, where the police are being displaced by new military structures that have been created, this change of model has to do with the corruption, the failure of the police and the failed reform process that began in the year 1993.”

Why this all matters? Police corruption is not new, neither is the idea that the police reform has failed. It was doomed from the beginning because of the lack of political will to adequately investigate and prosecute police involved in criminal activities.

Its failure will now be used to further militarize Honduran streets.

Saturday, July 12, 2014



Over two years has passed since four indigenous Miskitu people were violently killed, and three gravely injured during a joint Honduran-U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) anti-drug interdiction operation in the Moskitia region in eastern Honduras. This mission was one of many promoted by the U.S. government and its allies, in the failed and on-going War on Drugs in the region.

Since the night of the May 11, 2012 massacre, the lives of the survivors and their family members have been forever altered. They still lack any effective judicial, economic, medical, and political remedies despite reassurances from the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa that the matter has been handled.

It has become extremely important given recent developments, that all family members and victims of the massacre participate in a meeting to share and discuss the legal developments of their case, and clarify a recent alleged State Department-funded reparations project that has created tension, stress, and confusion among them. Many are interested in traveling to Tegucigalpa to discuss the following, but they need your help to do so:

Legal Strategy:
Between February and March 2013, a Honduran judge acquitted three Honduran agents for their involvement in the May 2012 drug interdiction operation. Not surprising given the corruption and lack of political will to persecute and punish human rights violations in Honduras, the judge ruled in a flawed trial that the agents in the anti-drug mission used legitimate force. The Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), the legal representative for the Ahuas victims, recently appealed the decision. No U.S. agents have been investigated, charged, or arrested. Reports indicate the U.S. Embassy refused access to the weapons and names of U.S. agents involved, impeding any legitimate investigation. Any further national and international steps in this case will need to involve the input of all family members and victims.

(Failed and Suspected) U.S. Reparations Attempt:
Unwilling to recognize responsibility and provide a transparent reparations process, the U.S. State Department provided funds in late 2013/early 2014 to the Honduran government, reported to be $150,000 thus far with another $50,000 in the pipeline, for regional ‘development’ in Ahuas to the non-governmental organization INGWAIA. INGWAIA, run by Hondurans with close ties to the National Party, approached victims and family members on an individual basis and failed to disclose the source and reason for the financial support, committing to housing improvement, reportedly with a total cost of no more then $1,200 per victim . INGWAIA ignored the victims’ most pressing needs –such as medical assistance and support for those disabled by the attack and education and support for the orphaned children. At least one family member was asked to purchase significant quantities of construction materials before INGWAI would agree to initiate the house construction project. The irresponsible, even abusive manner of dispersing the funds has been predictably divisive, causing misunderstandings, and tensions between victims and family members as they witness some receiving support and others not. A meeting of all victims will provide a space for a discussion about the alleged reparations project and the necessary steps required to handle the mismanaged situation on a local level and at the level of the U.S. government responsible for initiating it.

Investigations Being Conducted by the Office of Inspector Generals (OIGs) in the Department of Justice and State Department:
In May 2014, the OIG of the US Department of Justice announced that they were conducting a joint review with the Department of State OIG of three drug interdiction missions in 2012 involving the use of deadly force in Honduras. The impact this investigation will have on the Ahuas victims and family members, if any, is unknown. However, what it entails and involves as disclosed to the general public should be communicated directly to those affected by the May 2012 massacre.

On-going Needs:
Living in different communities in the large, and geographically-isolated Moskitia region has made contact among them and their allies very difficult. A meeting in Tegucigalpa of those affected by May 11, 2012 will encourage greater communication and mutual support. Touching base and outlining their on-going needs will also be beneficial for future engagement with the U.S. government and judicial system in Honduras as well as reignite public interest in the case.

We need to raise $4,266 so that all victims can travel to Tegucigalpa to meet, discuss, and act to denounce the developments of this case.

(Full budget included in complete fundraising appeal)

This month, the survivors and allies hope to meet to advance their campaign to hold the DEA and Honduran authorities accountable, but distances and travel costs along the jungle rivers, and their extreme poverty have prevented them from gathering until now. The Moskitia has become a major front in the drug war, and the Ahuas victims know that they must pursue a just resolution or many more of their Moskitu indigenous brothers and sisters will wrongly die. With your help and together they will support each other to survive the hardships while demanding peace in their communities.

Please make a donation for travel and meeting expenses.

Donations can be made at:

Photo caption: The Landín where the incident on May 11, 2012 took place in Ahuas, La Moskitia, Honduras.

Honduran news round-up: July 12, 2014

By: Daniel Langmeier

El Libertador published some more information on the visit by US congresswo/men to Honduras. Out of the seven, five are Republicans and two Democrats, and they will meet with JOH, the First Lady and the Special Task Force on Migrating Children. The sociologist Victor Meza proposes the creation of a state migration policy based on four pillars: creating local job opportunities; migration agreements with other countries; a productive reinvestment of
remittances; deal with migration as a human rights and not a crime.

The Economist has another lead article on the failed policy of mano dura in Latin America, taking Honduras and Guatemala as two telling examples.

ADEPZA, the human rights organization in the Southern island of Zacate Grande, greatly worries about the planned charter city project in their area.

OFRANEH took up the tragic event in the mine San Juan de Arriba and links the widespread illegal mining projects in Honduras to organized crime. Mining (the Canadian kind) also causes new problems in Azacualpa, Copán, where the military has moved in to repress the people demanding a stop to the mining activities.

COFADEH, the International Ecumenical Human Rights Observatory and CIPRODEH held a conference in Talanga with some 500 students against all kinds of discrimination.

Today San Luis will have a second chance to elect its mayor - the Liberal Leny Flores or the National Rony Flores.
For some observes, this election is living proof of the great need for a new Electoral Law.

In its weekly newsletter, Radio Progreso also dedicates a long article to the visit by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, and her troubling findings.

Campesinxs organization demand that the second part of the exhumations taking place these coming days will be done with greater care and transparency to counteract the ongoing impunity in these cases. They fear that this process is only used to clean the image of Dinant and Facussé in front of the World Bank.

JOH announced that the bidding for the construction of his Government City will start in the next three weeks. He wants all state institutions to be located in the same area, in buildings possessed by the state and therefore not paying rent. He promises savings in millions in the next 20 years and some 10'000 jobs during the three years construction. More probable is that some more people linked to the construction sector get
filthy rich while not much else changes.

Monday, July 7, 2014


The Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), condemns the criminal action which César Augusto Espinoza Muñoz and Abel Carbajal, priests of the parish of Arizona, Atlántida and international human rights volunteers with PROAH who were accompanying them, were victims of when yesterday, July 3rd at approximately 7 pm, when armed men driving a tourism vehicle, intercepted the vehicle that the priests and accompaniers were traveling in near Siguatepeque. The armed men forced them to stop their vehicle, pointed guns at them and took their vehicle and other belongings. They were then taken to another location in Siguatepeque where there were abandoned.

The priests Cesar Espinoza and Abel Carbajal as well as other leaders of the Atlántida department, are beneficiaries of protective measures from the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) as of December 2013; measures which have not been implemented by the State despite the fact the beneficiaries as well as MADJ have made concrete proposals to the State of Honduras for the protection of the lives and other rights
of the beneficiaries who are under threat due to their legitimate opposition to mining operations on the part of businessmen in the department of Atlántida.

MADJ denounces that days before this criminal action against the priests, several beneficiaries of protective measures issued by the IACHR and other members of MADJ of the Florida sector, have received repeated threats and harassment on the part of people linked to the mining company Minerales La Victoria, which is responsible for mining
project Buena Vista I which is opposed by the communities as it violates their individual and collective rights. MADJ warns that all of these actions which threaten the lives and security of leaders who denounce corruption and oppose the destruction of natural resources in the department of Atlántida occur following the June 30 hearing in Tela during which, thanks to the opportune action on the part of the victims, an attempt on the part of the Public Ministry to benefit the head of security for Minerales la Victoria, Wilfredo Funes, was rejected. Funes is in prison for crimes committed against human rights defenders in the zone.

MADJ again holds the State of Honduras responsible for failing to uphold its responsibility to respect and guarantee the human rights of priests Cesar Espinoza and Abel Carbajal, and leaders of MADJ, beneficiaries of
protective measures from the IACHR. MADJ demands that these and the many other criminal acts that we have denounced before the appropriate State institutions, be investigated and that the businessmen and corrupt functionaries who violate human rights and destroy the peace and tranquility of many rural communities that today suffer persecution on the part of national and transnational companies and corrupt state actors.


July 4, 2014.

Original Spanish version:

Honduran President JOH promoting ZEDEs in El Salvador

Just spent 10 days investigating the concept of Model Cities or ZEDES as the new legislation calls them, in Honduras with a North American educational delegation.

Hoping to post more interesting stuff about the investigations later, but just saw this article. Apparently Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH), the Honduran President that just will not give up on bringing a ZEDE to Honduras, is hoping neighbouring El Salvador will implement the same idea? Glad to hear JOH's talk about ZEDEs to the National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP) in El Salvador was cancelled because of opposing protests.